A Dec. 26 article in the Daily Mail highlights the dangers of the morning cinnamon roll, at least from the perspective of the European Union. The EU has provoked a storm of protest in Denmark and other Scandanavian countries by proposing a ban on kanelsnegle, cinnamon swirl. The problem? Too much cinnamon, well, too much of the wrong type of cinnamon.
The best, most expensive cinnamon, comes from Sri Lanka (Ceylon). The cinnamon used in the United States and throughout Europe for most pastry comes from other locales and a different species of tree. Cassia cinnamon is produced and prepared in the same way as Ceylon cinnamon but it carries a much higher amount of a chemical called coumarin.
Coumarin can be toxic. Medical News Today noted in May 2013 that the chemical is known to cause liver damage. Coumarin levels in the Cassia cinnamon samples tested in one study were 60 times those in Ceylon cinnamon. The chemical is banned for use in foods in the U.S. but is not regulated when it naturally occurs.
NPR looked at EU ban on Dec. 25. The EU has regulated the amount of naturally occurring coumarin in foods since 2008. Recent testing by the Danish government revealed that nearly half of the baked goods sampled were well over the legal limit.
Should you be worried as you eat your breakfast? Probably not. The NPR piece reports that liver damage only can happen in certain susceptible patients, not everyone. A susceptible person would have to eat a teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon per day for about two weeks to reach a dangerous level of coumarin. That is the equivalent of eating an entire batch of cookies every day. If coumarin still worries you, switch to using Ceylon cinnamon in baking and seasoning food.